Friday, 20 February 2015

Lessons learned from tragedy

A year after that devastating fire in a Quebec seniors' home that killed 32 seniors, the coroner has made recommendations. The one that made the news: mandatory sprinklers. I am wondering why it took a year to come up with that recommendation?  Why did their government not immediately legislate something around sprinklers in the wake of the tragedy? And how long will it take to institute this and other recommendations across the province of Quebec?

This is not the first time that fire in a seniors residence caused the loss of life. The 2009 fire in an Orillia home resulted in legislation in Ontario and as of 2014, automatic sprinklers are mandatory in all retirement homes. I suppose because senior care is under each province, legislation specific to retirement homes and long-term care, depends on the province and it seems, depends on what each learns from their own mistakes and tragedies. I am wondering why there are some things that are just not National and why, when avoidable deaths occur, we don't do things to prevent more of them, even if the disaster happened in another part of Canada. There are always more questions than answers when I read news items like this and in fairness, there may be far more to this and the need to go through an inquest in order to create necessary legislation, then the general public realizes.

I am very glad that there were significant lessons learned from such a horrible ordeal - I only wish so many didn't have to die, in order to protect others in the future. For the families and community that lost loved ones, I am certain that inquest findings do not lessen their grief . And I wonder how many other tragedies have to occur before every province recognizes that we as a country, have to do a better job of protecting our seniors.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Better Late than Never

Last week, a group of men, were finally given the recognition they deserved. The USA awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to a group of vets known as the 'Black Devils' or the Devil's Brigade. They were a joint American-Canadian team who assisted in liberating Europe and were the precursor to the Special Forces Units that came to be in both countries years later. Originally 1,800 men, very few are left now  - and about 50 in total attended a ceremony in Washington on February 2, 2015.

This story fascinated me for a couple of reasons; one of the men honoured is the father of a long-time friend. I have known him most of my life but it never crossed my mind that he was quite literally, a war hero. In fact, until I started reading the articles about this group and their award, I had no idea what his role was in the war. Secondly, the story of this group of young men, who used 'unconventional' tactics, to help win the war under cover of darkness is frankly amazing. They had the ability to to create fear in the Germans and have been the subject of movies and books.

Seventy years after war's end, there are 46 Canadian vets left who were part of that elite group. It's a shame that it took this many years for the American government to honour these men - though at the very least it was done while some were able to feel that their efforts were recognized and appreciated. The Canadian government bestowed their award a few years ago.

Part of the ceremony was aired live and I was glad to be able to witness this special piece of history. I think those of us in North America often take our freedoms for granted. Most of us are very far removed from war and what occurred 70 years ago. If not for the brave people who were willing to risk their lives, (and in many cases, lose their lives) at that terrible time in history, the world would be a very different place than it is today.

Thank you Devil's Brigade. Your award was most well-deserved and you have forged a place in history that will not be forgotten.

Friday, 6 February 2015

February - All About Hearts

February is here - and I'm not quite sure where January went. Anyway, besides snow, thanks to Hallmark, February is always associated with matters of the heart. Smartly, someone clued into this and also made the disease of February 'Heart Disease'. 

I already know about Valentines Day (though I am a bit confused why you would by a card for 'Baby's First Valentine's Day' or cards from your dog or cat and, to your dog or cat) so I decided to do some reading on Heart Month. It seems that everyone I know, knows someone with a heart issue so it's not surprising that "nine in 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Four in 10 have three or more risk factors."  and  "More than 1.4 million Canadians have heart disease. It is also one of the leading causes of death in Canada, claiming more than 33,600 lives per year." (from: With the growing societal concerns about obesity in children these numbers will only get worse unless we find ways to curb the risks people take with their own health. The impact of this on individuals, families, employers and our health system will be significant if it isn't already. 

So what can we do to make things better? How can we decrease our chances of becoming a statistic of this growing concern. Here's the thing - this is one disease that we might have a bit of control over - unlike others that strike regardless of what we try to do to stay healthy. And while doing all the right things may not prevent us from getting some form of the disease, it may assist in prolonging our healthy years and allow us to be a more viable candidate for treatment in the event that we can't escape a hereditary predisposition to it. If we ever hope to change the statistics we need to start by looking at risk factors that we can change. Smoking - this is a 'no brainer' - seriously, what good ever comes from smoking? Diabetes - some people are predisposed to this, while others develop it later in life for various reasons - one of those reasons is related to yet another risk factor - obesity. If we can ensure a healthy diet with some exercise, we not only can reduce our chances of heart disease, but also of other illnesses including diabetes which itself leads to a slippery slope of other potential issues. High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure might also be hereditary and if it is, early detection and intervention would be the key to reducing risk. However, things like a poor diet and lack of exercise can also contribute to it. So again, it may be an issue of lifestyle that helps reduce the risk for some. And then there is stress. Something we all have to a certain degree but some of us handle it better than others. I suppose the key here is knowing how to decrease stress levels and taking the time to de-stress. Much easier said than done. I suppose most important factors impacting change are an awareness and then a desire to stay healthy. Ultimately, eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, staying social, not smoking, going to your doctor for regular check ups and taking breaks from stress and work will all contribute to a healthier life not only by reducing heart disease risks but also through its positive impact on a host of other illnesses for which the risk factors are the same. We can only hope that the 'healthy lifestyle' message spreads and is adopted by our population soon - before our health care system cracks under the pressure of chronic preventable diseases.